Days before Halloween, Amazon Prime follows up its original movie, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, with another original release, Run Sweetheart Run. Like a lot of movies, Blumhouse Tilt originally scheduled Run Sweetheart Run for a theatrical release. But the COVID-19 pandemic derailed those plans and its sat on the shelf for two years. Promotion for this horror movie has also been pretty under-the-radar. It’s too bad because it looks like there’s plenty to like about this one. Critical consensus isn’t off the charts, but the reviews are generally positive.
Single mother Sherie struggles to get ahead in the law firm where she works as an assistant. When she inadvertently books her boss for a dinner with a client on his anniversary, she feels compelled to take his place on the work date. So Sherie’s pleasantly surprised when she meets Ethan – the attractive, articulate, charming and rich client. The two immediately hit if off and dinner gives way to one last late-night drink. And that’s when Ethan’s true colours come out and Sherie finds herself running for her life in a dangerous game.
Run Sweetheart Run Boasts Early Tension, Unexpected Twists
For about 15 minutes or so, Run Sweetheart Run looks like it’s going to take a slow-burn approach. Obviously, we know something’s not quite right with the charming Ethan. Writer and director Shana Feste teases it in a genuinely startling scene. And then the movie drops audiences into a tense and urgent thriller with a brilliantly executed that shows nothing but tells us everything. Subsequently Feste teases a breakneck feminist mix of The Most Dangerous Game and The Hunt. There’s plenty of early suspense with each encounter Sherie has with other characters as you’re left to wonder just how far Ethan’s reach extends.
While the twist doesn’t derail the movie’s momentum or pacing, it abruptly changes the tone.
At its midpoint, Run Sweetheart Run abruptly shifts its story revealing Ethan is an actual monster. While the twist doesn’t derail the movie’s momentum or pacing, it abruptly changes the tone. From this point onward, Feste struggles somewhat to maintain a consistent tone. That is, Run Sweetheart Run still has urgency and tension. Yet there’s also scenes that border close to feeling a bit campy. In particular, Feste’s big reveal at an ex’s house feels tonally different from what proceeded it. To her credit, Feste opts to film this – and other monster moments – in such a way as to not allow budgetary constraints to undermine the movie’s overall tone. However, the third act doubles down on the twist, expanding the thriller’s mythology beyond what it can sustain. Simply put, Run Sweetheart Run tries to do too much.
Run Sweetheart Run Boasts Strong Performances, Big Ideas
Beneath its modest blood and carnage, Feste and co-writers Keith Josef Adkins and Kellee Terrell have bigger themes that firmly place Run Sweetheart Run among the recent spate of feminist and #MeToo horror movies. That it’s immediately apparent in early scenes where Sherie quietly endures various male predatory behaviours makes it no less pertinent. In fact, the problem here isn’t the theme itself. The idea of a male monster serving the interests of all men and maintaining a patriarchal status quo speaks directly to real instances of men using their power to exploit women. Where the idea runs into problems is that Feste, Adkins, and Terrell shoehorn it late into the third act, thereby necessitating a lot of expository dialogue. Inevitably, it becomes a bit too much for the movie to hold on its shoulders.
Where the idea runs into problems is that Feste, Adkins, and Terrell shoehorn it late into the third act, thereby necessitating a lot of expository dialogue.
As the movie’s very real monster, Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones, Overlord) excels at balancing an almost regal charm with an intense menace. Asbæk’s cleary having fun with the role. And his ability to switch gears makes his ‘Ethan’ a terrifying representation of misogyny. But Run Sweetheart Run is Ella Balinska’s (Resident Evil series) movie from start to finish. In what should hopefully be a star-making performance, Balinska ensures that Sherie’s transformation from put upon to warrior feels organic and compelling. Several familiar faces, including Shohreh Aghdashloo, Clark Gregg, Betsy Brandt, and Dayo Okeniyi (Fresh), are along for the ride.
Run Sweetheart Run Tries To Do Too Much With Its Premise
There’s plenty to like with Run Sweetheart Run from its tense first act to Ella Balinska’s star-making performance. Though its second twist act feels unnecessary it doesn’t change the tone or sense of urgency Feste built earlier in the movie. But Run Sweetheart Run doubles down on that twist, which inevitably burdens the movie with too much to fully develop in time for the climax. Much of its initial momentum gets lost and the climax underwhelms relative to expectations. This isn’t to say that the movie crashes over the back half. In fact, some viewers may like the increasingly over-the-top narrative